2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
The 2011 R-Class may be an SUV, but test drivers say it drives more like a smooth sedan, which is a big plus for this family hauler. The only downsides are the base model’s poor fuel economy and a somewhat boring driving experience.
- "Ride comfort is the name of the game with the R-class. It's quiet and has a well-sorted suspension to smooth out bumps yet is not overly soft or hampered with large amounts of body roll. In fact, the car exhibited only minimal roll--in large crossover terms--on some twisting roads on our drive route in New Jersey." -- AutoWeek
- "Don't expect Euro-wagon handling; the R-class has light, vague steering and doesn't like to be hustled around corners. Long-distance comfort is the goal of this Benz, and in that sense the quiet, comfortable ride succeeds." -- Car and Driver
- "The overall ride (the diesel gets 19-inch rims with 225/50 R19 all-season run flats as standard equipment) proved a nice balance between ride comfort and road feel, and with all-wheel-drive, there's additional traction when the going gets nasty." -- Motor Trend
- "Rough road surfaces do elicit a bit of impact harshness, however, the overall tuning strikes a very user-friendly compromise in both R-Class variants, whether you're fast-tracking freeways or meandering down a country two-lane." -- Kelley Blue Book
Acceleration and Power
The base R350 comes with a 3.5-liter 268-horsepower V6 engine, while the R350 BlueTEC comes with a 210-horsepower turbodiesel V6. Both are mated to a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission.
Test drivers say that both engines provide adequate power, but the base engine can be a bit slow off the line. They overwhelmingly prefer the more fuel-efficient diesel model, saying that it feels quicker because it has substantially more torque (400 pound-feet versus 258 for the traditional engine).
The EPA has not yet rated the 2011 model, but it’s expected to achieve the same figures as the 2010 R-Class. The 2010 R350 is rated at 14/19 mpg city/highway, making it one of the least efficient SUVs in its class. On the other hand, the R350 BlueTEC is rated at 18/24 mpg, making it one of the most efficient.
If you want to save money and fuel without buying a diesel, consider the Lincoln MKT. It provides seating for seven, starts at about $6,000 less than the R-Class, and has a much higher 17/23 mpg base fuel economy rating.
- "It's surprising that so few buyers choose the diesel, because it's the better choice in almost every way. The turbodiesel may be 0.6 second slower to 60 mph on the factory stopwatch, but it's much more responsive in real life with its muscular 400 pound-feet of torque available from a low, 1600 rpm. Uphill grades and small bursts of acceleration are often handled without any downshifting.” -- Automobile Magazine
- “It took a heavy right foot to get the gasoline-equipped R-class up to speed quick for expressway merging exercises, but it is fine to motor away from stoplights when you're not in a hurry. On the other hand, the diesel offered great off-the-line punch, which is always appreciated." -- AutoWeek
- "Only non-diesel R350 models have been made available for us to test. They accelerate briskly, but the transmission in one test model periodically suffered jerky gear changes at low speeds." -- Consumer Guide
- "Out on the road, this isn't the fastest set of wheels that MB makes with zero to sixty up in about eight or nine seconds depending on engine choice. On a couple of test drives, it did seem like more grunt was needed." -- MarketWatch
- "Over a mix of hilly country roads and Manhattan urban jungle, the diesel proved a capable powerplant to propel the two-and-a-half ton R-Class. It did struggle a bit at times under hard acceleration up to its 4500 rpm redline -- especially with the default efficiency mode engaged." -- Motor Trend
- “Climbing hills or going for a pass doesn't require rev-jumping downshifts - just dip into the throttle and the R 350 BlueTEC 4MATIC accelerates without too much effort. That's not always the case with the less robust 3.5-liter gasoline V6, though. The engine simply feels winded and out of place given the luxurious trappings inside. Speed dips noticeably on nearly any incline, and building any serious momentum requires a premeditated effort.” -- Autoblog
Handling and Braking
Most reviewers find that the R-Class handles well for an SUV. In fact, they say it feels more like a car. However, several of them criticize its numb steering feel.
- “We would like the steering to offer a more direct feel because at times it felt way too disconnected. However, for a long road trip with the family and luggage, the R-class is a perfect tool to take along with roomy enough third-row seating for average-size adults." -- AutoWeek
- "When turning the attractive, four-spoke wheel at speed, the vehicle's rack and pinion, hydraulic power assist steering conspired to produce a decent, though slightly numb feel that took some effort to get back to on-center at times." -- Motor Trend
- "We did find ourselves a little disappointed with the R's steering. Turn the tiller one way or the other and it feels like you're connected to the front wheels via a foam pool noodle. If you're looking for the same meaty, weighted feel of other German manufacturers, forget it - it's just not there. Fortunately, the brakes are just the opposite." -- Autoblog
All-Wheel Drive System
Both R-Class models come standard with Mercedes’ 4MATIC All-Wheel Drive system. Reviewers say it’s useful for drivers who live in snowy or rainy climates.
- "After pushing the R-Class through the winding roads of Westchester County, we were impressed at how, despite its size, the R never displayed any untoward behavior. We would only imagine it shows the same during winter months -- or with a cackling celebutante aboard as it navigates the streets of Manhattan." -- Left Lane News
- "Likewise, the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system seems to do its job without any untoward clunky noises or wobbles from the steering wheel. While we didn't really get to play with the system in anything slipperier than New Jersey potholes, we're guessing it could hold its own in rain and snow." -- Autoblog